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The kind of prayer most commonly understood and practiced is asking for what you want and being temporarily filled with — and renewed by — both the self making that request and the anticipation of what is requested. Examples of this kind of prayer are as easy to produce as listening to your own thoughts tell you why you’re unhappy with your life: “Please send me some money… Please straighten out my problem… Please arrange a happy ending for me.” In this type of prayer, you are in charge of what you think you must have to be happy. However, if you try to establish a relationship with God based on your ideas of God and your ideas of you, you will get what you asked for, but you won’t be renewed. It will be the renewal that you have to renew again and again.
There is another kind of prayer, one critical for real self-renewal, and this secret prayer is where you ask God to be in charge of your life — to give you not what you think you want, but what He knows you need in order to enlarge your relationship with Him. This powerful kind of prayer begins with learning to ask the Almighty to help you help yourself see the truth about your life, even while knowing it will most likely reveal something about you that you don’t want to see.
This new willingness on your part for God’s will to supplant your own invites His Life to pour into yours. In comes the water that renews your life. You find yourself more alive than when you were struggling to give yourself the life you hoped for. You find yourself newly alive.